(Greetings. Today is "Marooned Without a Compass" Day. The questions you are to ask yourself on this day are: "Do you often find yourself going around in circles? Do you feel hopelessly lost? Do you know where you are?" These are daily questions for me, I don't need to reserve a day. But here's something I'm sure about: baseball cards. Time for Cardboard Appreciation. This is the 215th in a series):
As someone who was raised on baseball cards in the 1970s, I have had three opinions about baseball cards from the 1960s:
They are old. They are boring. They are filled with capless dudes in crew cuts.
In short, they're like an entire decade of pictures of my dad and his co-workers when they were young. These cards are going to lecture me on the value of hard work any minute now.
It is only recently that my feelings toward 1960s sets has begun to change.
Age has something do with that. But the scrawled-on cards that I picked up at my last card show are helping in my more enlightened viewpoint. Particularly beauties like this 1966 Richie Allen card.
But let's start at the beginning.
The first 1960s cards I ever saw where from the late '60s, Topps cards from 1968 and 1969 that I acquired from a friend of my mine whose older brother collected cards during that time. I liked the cards because they were old. But I wasn't impressed by the design -- a single large circle? Really? And I wasn't impressed by all the blacked out caps and guys who weren't even wearing caps.
Included in those '68s and '69s was a solitary 1967 Topps card. I adore '67 Topps now, but the card I had was Bob Bruce. Hardly the card to get me over my stereotype of 1960s cards.
I think if the guys on 1960s cards looked more like baseball players then I would have treated them more favorably. But as a kid I looked at cards like this as if they just put the garbage man's picture on a card.
Nothing in this photo tells me that this is a baseball player.
As for 1960s designs, my dim view of those didn't come until later.
Around the late 1970s, I developed an appreciation for card design and I liked the over-the-top 1970s designs the best. I also appreciated understated designs that still had some originality and thought (like 1973 and 1974 Topps).
Most 1960s Topps designs appeared to have taken three minutes to develop. Draw a line here. Draw another line there. Done.
The Topps designs for 1961, 1964, 1966, 1967 and 1969 are either too simplistic or minimalist, depending on your perspective. With the exception of 1967, I haven't been a fan. As for 1968, I'm still waiting for the person who decided that a burlap background was a good idea to show his or her face.
The most distinctive designs from Topps '60s cards are 1960, 1962, 1963 and 1965.
I wish I liked 1962 more than I do, because the wood border is an often-copied original. But the design makes the cards and the players look like they should be on a painting on a wall in an 18th century building. They barely look like baseball cards to me.
I enjoy 1960 because it's the rare horizontal set and also because it's colorful as all get-out. It's like the colors are literally pulsing from each card. I respect the 1963 set because the small-photo cameo is inspired, but I don't like the look that much. The 1965 set is genius. It is the 1960s version of "THIS IS A BASEBALL CARD." If there is a template that says "baseball card" use the 1965 design and everyone will know.
But let's come back to 1966 Topps.
For me, it's been that overlooked, forgotten set of the decade. Much like 1986 Fleer, which I always, always forget exists, the 1966 set is easy to pass over.
The photos are the same as the sets that immediately precede it, but the design doesn't make it very collectible.
That bad news is that Topps Heritage will be sporting this design in 2015.
As interested as I was in 2014 Heritage because it featured the 1965 design, I grew tired of it rather quickly. Imagine how fast I will tire of 2015 Heritage.
But there's still hope.
Because I took a chance on these scrawled-on cards, I am developing an appreciation for 1966 Topps. They really do have character.
Maybe it's that thing where hostages feel sympathy for their kidnappers. I brought these '66 Topps into my house and now I've found I have an attachment to them.
Compare these cards side-by-side with a 2014 Topps flagship card and there is no contest. I will take all of the written-on 1966 Topps you want to provide before I'm interested in an equally random stack of 2014 Topps.
The '66 design may not be inspired, but it's featured on real cardboard. And look how colorful that Dick McAuliffe card is!
Don't expect me to try to complete any 1960s set (although I'd love it if I could finish off 1967), but don't expect me to be so dismissive about those cards anymore either.
The more I receive randomly, through card packages and card shows, the more I realize that there's something about them that maybe even cards from the '70s and '80s -- my wheelhouse -- cannot touch.
Maybe it's because I'm a dad now. Maybe it's all those Mad Men episodes I've watched.
1960s cards are no longer the bridge between the preferred '50s and the preferred '70s. They're an end to themselves.
Scribbled or unscribbled.